Every caregiver deserves a break, including you! Time away from caring for your loved one is vital to your well-being. Yet, far too often you may find that you are not taking time for self-care that you need and deserve. Perhaps you feel guilty or feel selfish for taking a break as the needs of your love one takes precedence in your life right now. Or you may feel uncomfortable because you do not have access to qualified caregivers or financial resources to pay for a respite provider.
Dr. Beryl Dennis is a full-time caregiver for her mother. In an interview, Dr. Dennis chatted with us about her experience with accessing respite care. She also shares the benefits of taking a break from time-to-time, and how this practice has enhanced her ability to care for her mother long-term.
How would you define respite?
I define respite as time for rest for the purpose of replenishing the energy expended in caring for a loved one. Personally, respite is a much-needed break that I create in short moments rather than extended periods of time.
Why do you think it is important?
Respite is important because we risk burning out which can negatively impact the quality of the care, we give our loved one, as well as negatively impact the quality of our own health as family caregivers.
Please share your first personal experience with respite.
My first personal experience with respite was over a year after my mother became ill, and it was at the insistence of my mother. It has now been over a year since then. I really appreciated that my mother understood the importance of giving me a weekend away. I arranged for a CNA and two family members to spend the weekend with her. One family member was eager and willing to help, the other family member was not so eager. While I knew the family dynamics at play during my absence, I appreciated that no matter what, this time was a gift from my mother. I slept in late and went for a walk — that was precious time. I took photographs of the beautiful scenery along my walk and later shared those pictures with my mother. This respite time was extra special because it was something my mother wanted me to do. I look forward to my second experience with respite time away.
Some caregivers are protective of their loved ones and are reluctant to access respite services. Was there anything that stands out that prompted/encouraged you to access respite?
Per the previous response, I was encouraged to take respite time by my mother.
What impact if any, does respite have on your well-being?
My “moments” of respite give me clarity of thought and are somewhat re-energizing, but not as much as taking a weekend away. Nevertheless, I count my “moments” as special and they will hold me until I am able to take another weekend away.
Please share your thoughts about what makes a good respite provider.
My only experience has been with a CNA and two relatives filling in for me one weekend. What made it good for my mother and for me is knowing that these are individuals we trust. Even where there was reluctance from one relative, knowing that person is loved by my mother and is someone my mother would like to see more of, I knew all would still go well. What made the weekend go well was that there were clear instructions to follow. The refrigerator was well-stocked so there was something for everyone to enjoy while I was away. A good respite provider is trustworthy, follows instructions, and is well-fed.
Practicing self-care can improve your quality of life and enhance the relationship that you and your loved one share. Dr. Dennis confirmed this when she said that, “my mother told me she thanks God for giving me to her. Her statement expresses the love and commitment we share. We are both very thankful to God that we are both gifts to one another. Just as a gift is precious, so is the relationship that has grown as we journey together.
Three Valuable Respite Resources for Caregivers
The following are three resources that you may find helpful:
Please consider applying for the Caregiver Support Services (CSS) Caregiver Respite Grant program. As recipients of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s Phyllis and Milton Berg Bi-Annual Respite Grant, CSS is offering family caregivers the opportunity to take a break to attend to their overall well-being. Caregivers who are caring for a loved one who has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease are eligible to apply for a grant in the amount of $250.00 to pay for up to 8 hours of respite (per family).
Participate in the international Embracing Carers: Time Counts campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to encourage individuals to support caregivers by acknowledging that your time as a caregiver counts too. If you have a family members or friends that can help you by providing a break encourage them to join the campaign so that they can give time back to you, the primary caregiver, by taking some of the responsibility of caregiving off your shoulders.
Download, print, post, and share the info-graphic Seven Reasons Why Every Caregiver Deserves a Break. Posting the info-graphic can serve as a visual reminder about why you deserve time away from caring for the one you love.
It is hopeful that like Dr. Dennis you will take advantage of opportunities to take time for yourself from time-to-time. After all you deserve it!